Noble Moon held off a challenger in the stretch to win the Jerome Stakes on Saturday at Aqueduct. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
The Grade 2 Jerome Stakes served as the first points race of 2014 on the road to this year’s Kentucky Derby, and Noble Moon proved his mettle with a game victory as the heavy favorite for trainer Leah Gyarmati and owner Treadway Racing Stables.
Noble Moon seized command on the backstretch and battled determinedly through the stretch to hold off runner-up Classic Giacnroll by two lengths. Last seen finishing third after a troubled start in the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes in November at Aqueduct, Noble Moon improved to two wins from three starts and picked up his first stakes victory.
Noble Moon is by the same sire (father), Malibu Moon, as 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb. The bay 3-year-old colt was a $200,000 purchase at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale by Jeff Treadway.
Noble Moon flashed promise when winning his debut in front-running fashion in September at Belmont Park. His chances were severely compromised when he was bumped at the start of the Nashua, but to Noble Moon’s credit he closed from last of 12 to finish third.
In the Jerome, Noble Moon got off to a much better start and proved his class with a decisive victory under Irad Ortiz Jr. as the 4-to-5 favorite.
Noble Moon completed one mile and 70 yards in 1:45.08 to bank the 10 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby scoring system that determines which horses make the field for the first jewel of the Triple Crown. He also earned the $120,000 winner’s share.
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Gyarmati was pleased with Noble Moon’s Jerome victory, specifically his ability to rate behind the pacesetter early on as well as his determination in the stretch.
“It's a good sign that he can win and go two turns and fight them off, whether he's on the lead or not. As a rider, you can maneuver him, so that's always handy,” Gyarmati said. “He's going to have to step it up again, obviously, because there are some nice horses out there beyond Aqueduct.”
Gyarmati said the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes on March 1 at Aqueduct could be next for Noble Moon.
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Also in 3-year-old action on Saturday, Just Call Kenny rallied from last to first to win the six-furlong Spectacular Bid Stakes by 2 ¼ lengths at Gulfstream Park. Patrick McBurney trains the Jump Start colt for a partnership. He has won two of three career races and earned his first stakes win in the Spectacular Bid.
Mighty Brown pulled away in the stretch to post a dominant 3 ¼-length win in the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Trained by Tim Ice, who conditioned 2009 Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, Mighty Brown is a chestnut colt by 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Big Brown. He improved to two wins from nine starts and secured his first stakes win.
Germaniac went right to the front in the $100,000 Frank Whitely Jr. Stakes at Laurel Park and never was threatened in a 6 ½-length runaway win for trainer Tim Tullock Jr. The bay colt by Henny Hughes has won three of five starts.
Photo courtesy of Jim McCue/Marytland Jockey Club
In the 3-year-old fillies division, Awesome Baby opened a commanding lead in the stretch of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park and held off a late bid from runner-up Taste Like Candy to win by a half-length under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for owner Kaleem Shah, the Awesome Again filly earned her first stakes win and improved to two victories from four starts.
Sweet Whiskey confirmed her class with a 2 ¾-length win as the 1.70-to-1 favorite in the Grade 3 Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Old Fashioned filly finished second in the Grade 2 Matron Stakes in her previous start and improved to two wins from four races in winning her first stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Photo courtesy of Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park
Fierce Boots led from start to finish in the $100,000 Busanda Stakes at one mile and 70 yards at Aqueduct. Also trained by Pletcher, the Tiznow filly pulled away to win by two lengths under Jose Ortiz and improved to two wins in five starts.
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